I first attended and presented at WLA at the 2007 conference in Tacoma, Washington. Imagine my shock as I began to present my paper on Willa Cather’s “Shadows on the Rock” in front of many top Cather scholars including Ann Romines and Robert Thacker (both of whom I had cited within my paper). I could not have been more thrilled than afterwards when they both talked to me and encouraged me not just as a graduate student but as a fellow scholar. Further contacts and friendships I have made have been so much better than our standard perception of “networking.” Throughout that conference and during my second year in attendance at WLA’s 2008 conference in Boulder, Colorado, I have continued to meet faculty in research areas that have helped me as I continue my doctoral studies. Due to the conversations and contacts made at WLA I have benefited greatly, including current work on a book chapter and journal article, further seminars, paper ideas, and professional opportunities. The Western Literature Association has proved to be an invaluable asset and I look forward to continuing to attend throughout my career.
PhD Candidate, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
From the first WLA Conference I attended, in Tucson, Arizona, I have been consistently impressed with the dedication of WLA members to mentoring graduate students. Graduate students are warmly welcomed and treated as valued colleagues in this academic community.
PhD Candidate, University of Calgary
While I was a graduate student in American Studies, the Western Literature Association provided my first, and best, experience of academia as a true community of scholars. From the first time I attended a WLA conference, I was thrilled to be included in genuine dialogue with the experts in my field. Publications, important professional connections, and new research interests and teaching ideas have grown from my participation in WLA. And, the conferences are fun, as well as productive. WLA embodies the spirit of academic inquiry that is vital to me.
The WLA instantly became my professional home from the very first conference I attended as a grad student. I loved (and still love) the friendliness of the Association, the fascinating range of work being done by members, and the spirit of fun that prevails at the annual conference. Compared to the WLA, other professional organizations seem stodgy. It is perennially inspiring to belong to an association where levity and brilliant work go hand in hand.
I won the Taylor Award the first year I attended WLA. I arrived, full of apprehension, a Westerner in an eastern graduate program, doing western literature more or less in isolation. During those few days in Eugene, many WLA members introduced themselves, and I began to develop the relationships that have sustained me intellectually for the past twenty-some years. That year, I met Cheryll Glotfelty, who won the Taylor the year before I did, and we have been WLA roomies ever since. Partially because of the Taylor Award and the folks who noticed my work that first year, I secured a string of publications, and the WLA members who helped me get published made me competitive on the job market. Over the years, WLA members have written job and tenure letters for me, they have reviewed my work, and they have stimulated me to do better work and many have become my friends. I can't overstate the importance of WLA to my career. I felt so welcomed as a graduate student that WLA has become my intellectual home.